Efficient and Zero Net Energy-Ready Plug Loads

Publication Type




Plug loads are the devices plugged into common electrical outlets. Modern buildings contain hundreds of these devices which, together, are responsible for at least 25 percent of the energy use in California buildings. Energy consumed by plug loads is increasing because the "Internet of Things" is, to a great extent, the "Internet of Plug Loads." This project developed technologies that will reduce the energy use of plug loads. Two crosscutting strategies were investigated in detail: (1) technologies to reduce standby power use to near zero, and (2) methods to increase the use of direct current (DC) as a power source. Two new approaches to reduce standby to near zero were developed and have potential applicability to a wide range of devices. Prototype DC appliances were developed to demonstrate energy savings by bypassing power supplies and avoiding other losses. Networks of DC-powered devices can save even more energy and provide other benefits, such as resiliency during power outages. A unique category of energy-using devices was identified that provide life safety, health, and security to building occupants. Their installation or use is dictated by building codes, health providers, insurance companies, and other entities—none of whom would ordinarily prioritize energy efficiency. In the case of ground fault circuit interrupts (GFCIs), savings of 80 percent appear possible, simply by adopting the most efficient designs. Home medical equipment, particularly oxygen concentrators, are a rising category of energy use where significant savings are possible. This report also reviews the codes, standards, and other policies that affect energy use of plug loads.

Year of Publication



Research Areas